In my life, I have amassed a list of facts about me that never fail to shock people. Some of them are simple like “I’ve never read Harry Potter” or “I don’t like Oreos”. When listed together, at least one will surprise someone. But the one that seems to gain almost universal surprise is “I never believed in Santa Claus”.
Now when I say that, I’m not saying I was some brilliant 3-year-old that could tell the adults around her were lying. My parents never told me he was real. We were never rushed to bed early “because Santa is coming”. We were never told we had to be good, because he was watching. My mother had her issues with Santa. After seeing the girl who physically attacked her in grade school get fantastic presents “from Santa”, mom realized pretty quickly that the Santa myth was false. And when she grew up, she vowed she would never raise her kids in that. Instead, my parents opted for the religious route, as they’re both believers.
While there are a lot of holiday traditions I wish I could have done growing up (the lack of trick or treating still stings) I’ve never regretted not getting to do the Santa Claus myth. Surprisingly, actually believing in him isn’t too crucial to having a happy holiday.
In fact, there are multiple negative aspects to encouraging the Santa myth. Like my mother and her bully, there are still issues today with some kids getting far nicer presents than others in their class “from Santa”. The usual response is to post Facebook statuses about it, asking people to give their kids simple presents from Santa and save the nicer presents for those from mom and dad. But that’s hardly an effective strategy. When the confidence of your child relies on the material goods other people get, it’s essentially doomed to fail.
During some of my family’s lean years growing up, my siblings and I would sometimes get simpler, cheaper gifts. But we knew it was just the way things were at that point. We didn’t have to wonder if we’d gotten less gifts because we’d been less-good.
But the main reason I’m happy I never believed in Santa is the lack of disillusionment. There was never a “He’s not real?!?!” moment for me. Granted, since I moved on to another belief system the religious aspects have taken a more nostalgic meaning for me than the usual “reason for the season” facet. But, for the most part, Christmas is still as magical for me today as it was when I was 4. I don’t need to believe in Santa or be around a Santa-believing child for the holiday to be special. Gift giving is still thrilling, even now when I’m giving as many gifts as I’m receiving. The songs still warm my heart, the food is still delicious.
There’s nothing lacking because everything is more or less the way it was when I was little. My parents never convinced me to believe in something they knew I would have to give up one day. (They also believed I would continue in the same religion, but as they genuinely believe in it, I can’t fault them for that one).
I loved my childhood. I love Christmas. As for Santa? He can just stay a character in the claymations. That’s all I ever really needed from him anyway.